09 May 2023

A Fusion of Styles: Combining Traditional and Modern Elements

Robert Linforth took on a major renovation project to create his dream holiday home. In this Q&A, he shares insights into his decision to pursue the project, his vision for the new home, the challenges he faced during the planning and construction stages and his approach to material and product specification.


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What inspired you to take on this project?

I was enjoying life in my property on a new housing development and had contemplated having an extension. After a few conversations with family members, we came to the decision that it would be better to invest in a new property that would offer more scope to add value and also enable me to have a better quality of life.

Have you always wanted to pursue your own project?

Yes. I think most people have the idea that one day they would like the opportunity to build their own home.

How and why did you choose this property to renovate?

I chose a property close to the area I lived in to make the project easier and more accessible, but also because I am familiar with it.

There are ample amenities nearby, as well as pubs and restaurants, accessible on foot. There is also woodland behind the house, which is lovely for walks. Further afield, there are plenty of natural beauty spots, as well as day trips to places such as Cadbury World, Drayton Manor theme park and Warwick Racecourse.

I found the property through Rightmove and, after viewing it, felt the property was full of potential, so I wasted no time submitting my offer.

What style and age is the original building?

It was a mixed bag – what was left of the original property dated back to the early 1900s, but then the property had been extended through the 1980s. I had intended to restore the home but then decided to take a different approach.

How did you combine the original building’s style with the extension?

After careful consideration, I decided the original property was not in a state I could renovate, so I decided to demolish and rebuild the property to a custom specification. This would allow me to create a property with all the envisioned elements and it would become a truly unique experience.

What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?

I have always wanted a modern home balanced with traditional layouts. I wanted to create a space that would give my family and me a comfortable living area to relax and spend time together, as well as being somewhere I could entertain and accommodate friends. I also wanted to make the most of the surroundings.

How did you approach finalising your design brief?

I had a clear idea of how I wanted the layout of the house and the space to work, which I could draw out the old-fashioned way on paper. I passed this on and discussed my ideas with an architect, who then went away to create a finalised version of the brief.

How long did it take to gain planning permission?

Gaining planning permission for this project was quite complicated. We applied to demolish the existing property and build the new house, which came with complications as the original property was located on greenbelt land, so size and position were key to getting plans approved.

After we had the original plans approved, I decided to extend the property down – I have always wanted a house with a basement, so I decided to resubmit the application to include this addition.

Given the size of the plot, I also thought an indoor pool would be great. I did contemplate adding this to the basement design but decided that a separate building would work better. I submitted plans under the permitted development to build a pool room and gym area. The whole process, from start to finish, took around two years.

Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?

The majority of challenges came through the planning stage. There were many different hurdles, different surveys and investigation reports. These elements can come at a high price, and often these costs don’t get spoken about, but they could easily add between 3 and 5% to your overall budget.

The next challenge we faced was finding quality tradespeople and builders, which could potentially have come down to timing or location, or simply the challenges within the construction industry at that moment.

One thing became very clear during this process; when building a house, there are daily challenges, but you learn to find ways to manage these as best you can and overcome them.

Did you project manage the build yourself?

Yes, and it’s not a decision to take lightly. You have to put your heart and soul into it. It’s incredibly rewarding to take ownership and feel a sense of accomplishment when it’s complete. But there is nowhere to hide during the process or anyone to blame – everything is in your hands.

Did you work with an architect at any point in the process?

Yes. The planning process is a minefield, so you need experts to guide you. It’s also necessary to get the drawings, plans and calculations accurate, so you can be confident in what you are issuing to the trades so they can clearly understand the requirements. Having all the correct documentation at the start makes things easier through development.

How did you approach material and product specifications?

It’s a fine balance between quality and budget. I started looking at design well before the planning stage. I must have visited every homebuilding show for three years. I could have filled a room with product literature and samples. It’s essential to have a clear idea of design.

I also produced mood boards for each room to help with this process; this has a huge impact on choosing product specifications and then the material purchases and costs.

Are there any particular materials you recommend to others looking to renovate or self-build?

Material choice is very personal to your build. That said, the key is whatever materials you choose, make sure they are fit for purpose. Do your research and due diligence, as choosing the wrong materials can be very costly in the long run.

How long did the project take?

The main house was started in late 2016, and we finished and moved in, in December 2018. It probably ran over by about two months. We were still working on the property, but it was livable, so we could enjoy Christmas dinner. I knew the project would not be completed on time due to budget constraints. The basement fit-out, pool room and landscaping were completed by late 2021. So, a five-year process in total.

Did you remain within the original budget?

I had a budget with costs, but I firmly believe anyone who says they stick to it is not telling the truth! Budgeting was a daily job. Prices changed both up and down throughout the project. I knew what the end value of the property would be, so I approached this with the idea I could not exceed this figure, and I didn’t.

Please provide an overview of both the interior and exterior finished space.

There are electric gates at the entrance of the property and off-road parking space for up to 12 cars. The gates make it secure for pets and children to roam freely.

The property is set out over three floors, with the entertainment area on the lower ground floor. Here, you’ll find a movie room with comfy cinema-style seating for nine, a huge screen and a fully-immersive sound system. There’s also a games room with sofa seating, a pool table, an electronic pinball machine, a smart TV with Netflix and BT package, a PlayStation with DVD player and a bar area.

The main living area on the ground floor is designed for socialising. In the lounge, there’s seating for everyone to gather and watch TV. Meanwhile, the open-plan kitchen and dining room, like the rest of the house, are sleek and stylish. There’s everything you could need to cook and entertain with special touches, such as a steam oven and a warming drawer, as well as a tap that provides filtered and instant boiling water, plus another smart TV.

As well as a dining table that overlooks the garden, there’s sofa seating and a kitchen island with a breakfast bar. We’ve added features such as a wireless phone charge, USB plugs, a knife holder and an extractor fan that pops out of the worktop.

Large sliding patio doors lead from the dining room onto the rear garden and the patio, which is furnished with a gazebo, table and chairs so that you can dine and admire the views of the woodlands at the back of the house. There’s also a gas BBQ, a wood-fired pizza oven and a gas fire pit.

In a separate building in the garden, there’s a mini leisure complex that you’ll have all to yourselves, with an indoor swimming pool, sauna and a gym area with a smart TV. In partnership with Luxury Cottages, guests can ask its guest services team about pre-booking spa treatments there as well.

The house has four bedrooms, with an additional two multipurpose rooms on the lower-ground level that can cater for a double bed, which can also be split into two singles, and they share an en-suite shower room. The other four bedrooms are on the first floor, one with a king-size bed and the other three with double beds. These all have en-suites with a shower, but two also have a bath. All but one of the bedrooms has a TV.

How does the building respond to its surrounding landscape?

I’m biased, but I think the building fits into its surroundings very well. I took this into account during the design stage. Position and location were key to the design.

What does the local community think of the refurbishment?

I would say, on the whole, it’s been accepted in a positive light by the local community. You will always get some kind of negative attitude from some people, but generally people have been very supportive of the build.

Is the finished space everything that you hoped it would be?

Oh yes, and more! I couldn’t be happier with the overall finish. It has fulfilled the type of home I wanted for my family and me, and seeing it come to life was an amazing experience.

What do you love most about your new home?

It’s really hard to say one thing. I suppose just living in it and enjoying it, making lots of new memories. There are so many things I love about the house. The feeling of space and not having to live on top of each other enables us to have the quality of life we were hoping for.

What’s your favourite room and why?

I love all the rooms. The house really flows well. The cinema room was an extravagance, and I’m proud to say it’s as good as going to the cinema, so that would probably be my favourite.

Is there anything that you would have done differently?

As with all major projects, there are always lessons to be learnt. If I were to do it again, there are certainly things I would do differently – not necessarily because what I did was wrong, but to take an alternative approach.

The one thing I would look at differently is the outside. I would have used lighter cladding as opposed to render. I actually replaced the render on the walls around the house with cladding, which helps keep the maintenance down. Technology is forever changing, so there will always be alternative products available.

Would you do the whole thing again?

The honest answer is yes, it was very stressful but, at the same time, very rewarding.

What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate or self-build?

Plan, plan and plan again and double check everything that is being done at each stage. I’d also strongly advise getting a good team around you – work with the local planning department and building control and then just enjoy every moment.

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